Step Inside Ken Fulk’s Cinematic Universe

In his new volume for Assouline, the maestro says: “Bring on the drama”

“I was a weird little kid,” says AD100 interior designer Ken Fulk. “I always saw the world in a cinematic fashion.” Fulk, the man behind the Chrysler Building’s sky-high Deco Cloud Club, as well as a member’s club in Boston’s tony Back Bay—both of which capture the spirit of Gilded Age glamour—learned how to set a scene by watching the masters at work. “The Bond villain house from Live and Let Die,” he reels off, calling from his house in Provincetown as waves lap at the dock and his dogs splash around. “The over-the-top lifestyle of Auntie Mame and the set changes of her apartment. Vincente Minnelli reruns of Meet Me in St. Louis. I went to see Grease like seven or eight times because I was just enthralled by those sort of childhood summer blockbusters.”

Fulk recently released a blockbuster of his own, The Movie in My Mind (published by Assouline and retailing for $95), a cinematic universe of recent projects. “I was never trained as a designer,” he says. “I don’t draw. We start every project with words. We write a story that’s like a script, a classic Hollywood pitch. And even though we have a hundred people who help execute it all, the seeds all just spring out of my head. That’s why the cover of the book is kind of my head exploding.” He adds, with a laugh, that’s something that “might bring some people joy!”

Thematic tentpoles organize the monograph which, for a bit of star power, boasts an introduction by Ronan Farrow. Technicolor offers a spectrum of Fulk’s hues, from the Barragán-goes-boho Casa Grande beach compound in Mexico, a blockbuster collaboration with Víctor Legorreta, to the Hudson Yards hotspot Legacy Records, with its green gloss and blue croc accents. At the latter, Fulk has embedded bronze song lyrics in the concrete and clad a wall with a multicolor mural by the artist Chris Lux, based on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece I Want You. There’s also “a secret room created for a pair of celebrities I won’t name,” he says, “but you can take a guess. It was fun to build something from scratch.”

The Action Flicks chapter knocks out projects for air (a private jet with hand-tufted carpet) and sea (a custom yacht), whereas the Period Dramas chapter returns to terra firma—specifically, 18th-century Provincetown, where Fulk and his husband transformed a building first built by whalers into a restrained, if not overly reverent, space for the Provincetown Arts Society. “It’s really become a sort of connective tissue for all the arts organizations,” he says. “The community of folks here have really inhabited it. It’s heartwarming to see it filled with life and art.”

Both fill the Epic Romances section. There, readers will uncover an array of spaces: a couple’s more-is-more, jewel-toned Texas love nest; the romantic-fantastic interiors of the Felix Coffee Co. cafés in New York and Aspen, which froth up Aesthetic Movement references and arabica flower wallpaper; and a higher love of pink and purple, which elevate San Francisco’s 1913 neo-Romanesque Saint Joseph’s church into an inspired society for art and artists.

For all the popcorn thrills of Fulk’s bold casting of color and historical references, though, the book convincingly argues he’s achieved auteur status. His Mill House near Silicon Valley uses the walls of an historic Tudor manse as a silver screen. “I wanted it to feel opinionated, alive,” he says. In place of klieg lights, a Stuart Haygarth chandelier catches the eye. “It’s made of carnival horses that have been cast and mounted, and it must weigh thousands of pounds. It was a real feat to get it up there.” Elsewhere, a nook becomes impossibly vast thanks to an eye-popping wallcovering not unlike the anaglyphic red/blue of 3D glasses. “It’s such a fun move. It’s bold, but the family uses every inch of it,” he says.

Every movie proves that another world is possible. The point is to make it happen. “Of course, you may screw up sometimes, but it’s thrilling to go on the journey,” he says. “It’s what keeps me up at night: great joy. It’s the key to an exciting life.” And even, if you’re lucky, a Hollywood ending.